Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Texting and driving—a menace

As America's love affair with automobiles turned into an addiction, rules of the road and traffic laws became necessary to prevent chaos on streets and highways.

The overriding theme behind most laws requires drivers to act with good judgment, be free of chemical and alcohol influences and have vehicles under control in all circumstances to avoid injuring others or creating accidents.

Electronics have brought new menaces to the road—cell phones and their texting features in the hands of drivers.

Led by Democratic state Sen. Les Bock of Boise, several Idaho lawmakers are introducing legislation that would make it illegal for drivers to text while driving or to use cell phones without a hands-free rig allowing conversation while driving with both hands. The bill proposes a $75 fine.

The new law is logical, needed and perfectly timed. Keeping up with the times is necessary for effective traffic enforcement. Emerging nationwide statistics cited by the National Safety Council show an estimated 600,000 annual accidents, resulting in 330,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths, caused by distracted drivers using cell phones or writing text messages on their phones. Seven other states have similar laws.

Foes of the proposed law may argue against imposing new restrictions on drivers. They would miss the point. It's the state's obligation to impose restrictions that would increase safety. Laws governing speeding, drinking and driving, and reckless behavior are all restrictions on drivers' carefree abuse of vehicles.

Responsible lawmakers will heartily support this legislation as another step to keep up with the times to make Idaho's roads safe for all drivers.

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